Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

“Reflections of a Popcorn Lover”

by MCGA Agvocate Michaela Bengtson

Growing up on the farm, we had many different traditions. But one of my favorites would have to be our Sunday night suppers. Sunday nights were always the same for our supper plans. They consisted of two things, the first was that we ate leftovers from the week before, and the second part was always my favorite: when my dad was done with chores, he would come up to the house and pull out the old cast iron pot and make fresh popped popcorn.

The popcorn usually ended up being the majority of our meals and dad usually had to make twice as much because we would eat about half the popcorn while he was still busy popping the rest. We even grew our own popcorn one year to see how it would taste and what it would be like.

Why am I sharing this story with you? March 14th is National Popcorn Lover’s day so in honor of that I wanted to share some interesting facts about popcorn with everyone! The first fun fact is that in Sac City, Iowa in February of 2009, they built the world’s largest popcorn ball! It weighed nearly 5,000 pounds and stood over 8 feet tall.

In searching for popcorn trivia, one of the most interesting facts that I have found has been the following: According to the site, “Many people believe the acres of corn they see in the Midwest during growing season could be picked and eaten for dinner, or dried and popped. In fact, those acres are typically field corn, which is used largely for livestock feed, and differs from both sweet corn and popcorn.” This is an interesting fact for us as agriculturalist to know about our non-farming friends: Even when considering something as simple as popcorn, many people don’t know how their food gets from the field to their table. As we go about our daily lives we need to make sure that we as individuals in agriculture are doing what we can to help everyone to understand what we do and where our food comes from.

So remember the next time you hear the pop in the microwave that we need to pop into action and make sure that we are sharing our stories and enthusiasm for agriculture with everyone!

U researcher thinks current food system is ruining planet

(Article by: JOSEPHINE MARCOTTY, Star Tribune)

A study led by a University of Minnesota researcher and published online last Wednesday by the journal Nature provides a snapshot of the perilous state of the world’s food system — and how it has changed the face of the planet.

How do you feed 9 billion people without destroying the planet?

Transform the global food system in the next 40 years by using crops to feed people instead of fattening livestock and producing fuel; eliminate food waste; and overhaul the use of fertilizers like nitrogen that are polluting waters around the world.

Those are some of the conclusions in a study led by a University of Minnesota researcher published online by the journal Nature.

Though the problems described in the paper have been well documented, the study takes the unusual approach of suggesting solutions for all of them simultaneously.

“We wanted to address food and environmental problems,” said Jonathan Foley, the lead author. “Up until now they’ve been treated as separate.”

Unlike some academic research, the paper is getting national attention, and Foley has been making his case in meetings with food industry executives at corporations such as General Mills and Cargill, and international environmental and agricultural groups.

Our Take:

It’s a good story. If it were really true. But why let facts get in the way of a paper that will make a sensation and create a reputation in a world where few people understand agriculture, and therefore you can get away with a lot of fast and loose shots.

Let’s look at a real life story, instead. We know a Northfield farmer who ran the numbers and seriously considered raising wheat on his land–the crop that dominated Minnesota agriculture two generations ago.

He found that even after subtracting the starch from his corn to make the ethanol, the food value that remains–a high protein feed product called distillers grains–represented more protein than a wheat crop would yield. Food and energy produced by an acre, instead of just less food.

There is a reason corn is winning acres. But this attack goes further and posits the idea that we should derive our protein from food crops instead of the livestock industry. I’d like to see Mr. Foley give a hundred dollars to a shopper and see how they spend it. My guess–the shopping cart would head for the meat counter.

And what Prof. Foley does not address is the deleterious effect on our economy of shipping mountains of wealth to OPEC in order to run our vehicles. If we kept that money here it would be capital that puts people to work, and feeds people and increases our wealth instead of the wealth of other nations. Grain ethanol forms the foundation for an even larger biomass ethanol revolution–together they will keep a lot of economic activity happening here, which means more jobs, less hunger and homelessness for Americans.

Nitrogen fertilizer will not ruin the world. Nitrogen efficiency is the next big challenge that American farmers have set their sights on conquering, and our crop science companies are making strides alongside land grant university researchers developing best management practices that get nitrates to plants and not groundwater.

We do agree with the professor on one point. Bringing the productivity of all farm land in the world up to optimum levels is essential. Even American farmers have a little room for improvement. Put agronomic improvements next to yield performance improvements and experts believe American farmers can more than double their output on the same acreage with the same or fewer inputs.

If arable land in the Third World were corrected for pH, properly fertilized and had the benefit of 21st century technology and agronomic know-how geared to each specific region’s climate and growing conditions–we would see vast economic growth–a rising tide that lifts all boats, as President Kennedy once said. The opportunity for self-reliance and environmental preservation would spread to every country.


Turning the Food Fight into a constructive conversation: The US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance Food Dialogs

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

In contrast to the pitched battles that take place almost daily on newspaper pages and television shows between environmental and food groups and the farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses that produce the food–farmers staged a unique media event on September 22 that offered a different approach.

Held in town hall meeting style in four locations across the country on September 22, the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) Food Dialogs drew together panels of experts who could raise the questions about food and farming that are most pressing in the minds of consumers and environmental advocates. The questions were asked and answered in an atmosphere of open discussion without fear of attack rhetoric. The panels responded to questions from studio audiences right in front of them, and to questions submitted via social media from locations throughout the country.

​“Americans have a lot of questions about where their food comes from, how it is raised and if it is good for their health long-term,” said Bob Stallman, chairman of USFRA and president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “USFRA commissioned two separate surveys to first ask farmers and ranchers what they wished Americans could have more information about where their food comes from. We then asked consumers what questions they have on the same topic. The findings of both surveys indicate there is an opportunity for more dialogue between farmers, ranchers and the American public about how food is grown and raised in the U.S.”

Panels took place in Washington, DC; New York City; Davis, California; and Fair Oaks, Indiana.

In the Washington DC panel, for instance, Tres Bailey, the director of Agriculture and Food for Walmart sat side-by-side with Kathi Brock of the American Humane Association’s Farm Animal program and Jason Clay, senior vice president for market transformation for World Wildlife Fund. Stallman, brought the farmer’s perspective to the discussion, which was carried live by web broadcast. Other Washington panelists were former US Ag Secretary Dan Glickman and Frank DiPasquale, CEO of School Nutrition Association. Current Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack also made an appearance at the Washington town hall meeting.

Participants raised questions about whether to consider food a national security issue in the same way that energy self-reliance has become a key concept. Use of resources, in particular water, became a discussion point. One audience member asked about whether farmers could provide more transparency to the public–to show how they raise crops and animals. Another asked whether it was fair or appropriate to set school menus to curb obesity when it means that the 65 percent of non-obese children cannot enjoy two of their favorite vegetables — corn and potatoes — more than once a week in school menus.

Stallman noted that this forum would become a means for farmers and ranchers to better understand what the public would like to know about how their food is produced.

Locally, the University of Minnesota’s Ag Education Club, as well as Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and Minnesota Corn Growers Association all supported a viewing party at University of Minnesota’s Cargill Center for Plant and Microbial Genomics. Representatives of farm organizations and state government were among the attendees.

Local panelists included State Rep. Al Juhnke, ranking democrat on the House agriculture committee, State Senator Doug Magnus; Kirby Schmitt, a representative of the University of Minnesota Agriculture Education Club and others. Farm Radio newsman Tom Rothman served as moderator.

The entire proceedings of the Food Dialog town hall meetings can be viewed at